These words from the musical Oliver Twist express the longings of young boys living in an orphanage where there was never enough to eat. The boys became obsessed with visions of abundant food, such as “three banquets a day,” and “piled pies and cream, about six feet high.”
WHY DO WE EAT?
Hunger: The longing for food in Oliver Twist was driven by hunger. Hunger can be the most obvious—and sometimes the most driving—reason why people eat, but it certainly is not the only reason.
Health: People who eat for this reason value good nutrition as vital to overall health and longevity. Foods are carefully selected, prepared, and eaten at precise times. All perceived harmful elements are avoided.
Energy: For athletes, the energy from food is important for performance. Foods rich in carbohydrates are the choice for energy. Other important contributors to the making of a good athlete include foods that promote healthy bones, those rich in vitamin B12 to ward off fatigue, and high-fiber foods which aid in extending endurance.
Habit: Routine and habits play an important role in our lives. Wake up: eat breakfast. Come home: eat dinner. Routine can also depend on other variables, including cultural background. In one country it is considered undesirable to retire for the night hungry; thus, the biggest meal of the day is eaten late at night before bed. For some, lifestyle values govern their routines. For instance, rather than taking time for a good breakfast in the morning before work, some perceive extra sleep as more important, so breakfast is skipped, eaten on the run, or made up for with snacks on the job.
Stress: Stress can drive people to eat too much, too little, the wrong foods, or not at all. Unhealthy eating interludes can become habits, resulting in either obesity or low body weight, both of which can lead to serious problems.
Addictive Behavior: Food addicts typically have little self-control over the amount of food they eat or when they eat. Often they eat too much of the wrong kind of food. They may be full but still cannot stop eating. They eat because of stress and anxiety, and as they gain weight and feel bloated and lousy, they become more stressed, which leads to more eating
Social Interaction: Although eating is a biological act that sustains our physiological being, it also feeds our social and emotional well-being. Eating is usually more meaningful when shared with family and friends. It is usually a central part of special family and church events.
Trigger Environment: An environment can sometimes trigger emotional eating, or overeating. Such environments include celebrations where abundant food is served, all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants, or sports events where plentiful snacks are readily available.
Pleasure: Some eat for pleasure, simply enjoying the taste and texture of foods. Self-control varies with the individual.
Comfort: Feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression, or stress can lead to comfort eating. Foods with high sugar content, such as chocolate and other sweets, are very attractive since they produce temporary highs or sugar rushes which lift the spirits. Emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. Emotional hunger cannot be filled with food.
WHERE AM I IN ALL OF THIS?
The list above can help us recognize our own problem areas. Better eating habits can lead to improved health, more energy, increased stamina, and improved resistance to disease. But this kind of change involves making a personal choice with firm resolve. Here are a few suggestions for getting started.
1. Keep a food journal, making sure to write down what you eat, when you eat, and where you eat. This will help you understand the circumstances that act as triggers for eating problems.
2. Recognize the symptoms that reveal emotional eating:
a. hunger which comes on suddenly
b. craving specific foods
c. periods of mindless eating
d. lack of satisfaction even when full
e. noticing the feeling of hunger is not in the stomach
f. feelings of regret, guilt, or shame after an episode of overeating
3. Try stress management. Give yourself a mini-vacation to get away from the stress for a while. Read a good book, listen to music, take a walk, meet with friends, wash the car, write a letter, and so on.
4. Drink water. Adequate water can help quench unnecessary cravings. Take your body weight in pounds, divide that number in half, and aim to drink about that many ounces of water each day.
5. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep has a direct effect on your level of stress and ability to handle it. Therefore, fatigue can lead to food cravings, overeating, and weight gain.
6. Seek professional assistance if you have tried selfhelp options which are not working. Professional support can help you understand the motivations behind less-than-desirable eating habits and suggest helpful strategies.
7. Talk to your heavenly Father. Tell Him about your desires and struggles. No one loves you more than He does, and His promises of help are true and faithful.